By The Venerable Roger Saterstrom, Archdeacon
Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee
For the first time since World War II, there are nearly 70 million displaced people worldwide. Many of them are fleeing their homelands due to persecution or violence for ethnic, religious, or social reasons.
Asylum-seekers from the U.S. southern border, who have been released from federal detention centers while they await processing through understaffed Immigration Courts, arrive at the Nashville Greyhound bus station every day, enroute to another location.
A network of community volunteers has sprung up in Nashville—and across the country— to stand in solidarity with this displaced community, as they transit through our city.
In the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, volunteers from St. Augustine’s Chapel and Christ Church Cathedral have begun joining others to meet asylum seekers who arrive at the Nashville bus station. Volunteers extend welcome to these travelers and provide them with travel assistance, food, water, first aid supplies, toiletries, plus soft toys and coloring pages for kids. In a short time, the migrants board a connecting bus to continue their journey to a sponsoring friend or family member in another city.
The number of arriving asylum seekers varies from week to week, but the need for supplies and volunteer greeters will continue for months to come, as these legal persons make their way through the judicial process.
A complicating factor, as we have seen in local headlines in recent days, is the tendency of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to raid first, to shoot unnecessarily, and to frighten citizens and immigrants alike. The presence of local volunteers can serve as a deterrent to such harassing actions.
People Ask: What Can I Do? The answer is, you can do much to welcome the stranger in our midst. You can collect and donate small toiletries for families and small soft toys for children. You can volunteer to meet asylum-seekers at the Greyhound bus station. You can be a voice for justice by contacting local, state, federal elected officials, to let them know what you think of current practice. You can share with others your questions and ideas. To find out how to volunteer as a Nashville bus station greeter, go to http://bit.ly/2MvGv28.
The Episcopal Church has named Migration Ministries a priority for the Church as a whole, and is committed to advocating for humane immigration policies that respect the dignity and worth of every human being and for comprehensive immigration reform.
Archdeacon Roger Saterstrom serves outreach ministries at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville. He and his wife Anna assist asylum seekers transiting through the Nashville Greyhound bus station. firstname.lastname@example.org.